The chief executive of the US Travel Association has warned that the “world will pass the US by” unless more money is invested in customs and border staff.

But he remains confident that the country will surpass a target of 100 million visitors a year by 2021.

Speaking at the IPW convention in Las Vegas, Roger Dow said proposed budgets for the Department of Homeland Security would bring in 1,600 new customs staff, with proposals to bring in a further 3,500.

But he warned that potential mandatory budget cuts from the US government could see numbers slashed if lobbying from the industry isn’t successful.

“It is a problem. The President knows it and we have to get Congress to act on it, or as travellers do, they will go somewhere else,” he said.

“If we don’t roam around the world and get the world to roam around the US, then the world will pass us by.”

He added: “It is up to US Travel to shine a light on the problem and turn up the heat.”

Despite the warning, Dow reported a 4.3 million increase in overseas visitors to the US in 2012, taking the overall figure to 66.6 million.

And he took a bullish stance on President Obama’s target of 100 million visitors a year within eight years.

“To reach that figure, we would need to a 5.4% increase per year, but we’ve been growing in excess of 7% per year. We will surpass 100 million, I am confident of that.”